Expert Blog: IT Infrastructure Automation: Trends, Tools and Technologies

Photo Bojana Dobran
Bojana Dobran, Product Marketing Manager at phoenixNAP

The modern IT infrastructure is increasingly moving away from manual deployment and management processes to API-driven and IaC-based approaches. Tasks such as provisioning, configuring, and patching are being automated to improve platform agility and enable continuous delivery.

Author: Bojana Dobran, Product Marketing Manager at phoenixNAP

According to a 2020 report by Gartner, automation strategy rethink is the number one trend impacting Infrastructure & Operations for 2020. The study suggests that 90% of enterprises are expected to hire an Automation Architect by 2025, compared to the 20% having that role today. IT automation will evidently continue to be prioritized and this changing mindset will transform the traditional infrastructure.

Benefits of Infrastructure Automation

With experimentation and iteration being key to efficient software development, the modern infrastructure needs to allow for easy instance creation, replication, and scaling. The ability to create new server instances fast and with no variability helps shorten code release cycles and improve code deliverability.

In recent years, different tools and technologies have emerged to make this possible. Containers, orchestration managers, microservices, and Infrastructure as Code tools are some of the solutions now commonly used to improve infrastructure efficiency. By making code and environment components reusable, they help streamline provisioning and management for improved business pipelines.

Another important benefit of this approach is that the compute resources for cluster deployment are available at low prices and are often billed on an hourly basis, which contributes to improved cost efficiency.

Key benefits include:

  • Accelerated go-to market timeframes
  • Reduced complexity
  • Improved error handling
  • Better productivity and collaboration
  • Overall cost efficiency

Provisioning Automation

To make space for the continuous delivery model, organizations are looking to decentralize their resources and minimize manual interventions in infrastructure management. Platform provisioning is one of the segments that is being increasingly automated. Using pre-configured cloud instances available on a pay-per-use model, Infrastructure and Operations teams can quickly deploy and decommission servers as business needs dictate.

phoenixNAP’s Bare Metal Cloud is an example of a dedicated server platform that allows this level of automation. Integrated with the most popular IaC tools and having its own API and CLI, it enables server provisioning in under two minutes. Compared to Public Cloud, however, Bare Metal Cloud leverages advanced compute and network technologies for improved performance, stability, and security. It provides access to multiple 2nd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processor configurations on an hourly billing or monthly reservation model, delivering more power at an affordable price point.

Infrastructure-as-Code

As infrastructure becomes more software-like, Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools such as Terraform and Pulumi are more widely adopted. Enabling users to write configuration as a code file and replicate it easily across different platforms, they eliminate the need to deploy and configure a new server anytime additional resources are needed. By allowing easy creation of repeatable infrastructure builds and easy configuration management, IaC tools ensure simplicity and consistency in infrastructure creation and management.

Configuration Management Tools (CMT)

Ansible, Puppet, and Chef are probably the first few solutions that pop up when talking about CMTs today. Enabling development teams to deploy, configure, and manage servers using scripts, they help reduce deployment timeframes and simplify Day 2 operations.

CMTs may use either a pull or push model to execute scripts, but they all have several features in common. In addition to simplifying infrastructure management, they encourage development teams to use coding conventions that help improve code structure and navigation. Idempotency is another major benefit as CMTs allow for the code to be executed indefinite number of times without the end state being changed. They are also optimized for microservices development, which is another reason why they are so popular among DevOps teams and automation-driven organizations.

Deployment Automation

Much like provisioning and configuration, code deployment is being increasingly automated to meet the needs for rapid iteration and higher sprint velocities. In recent years, the DevOps approach where code is automatically deployed after QA has become more widely adopted and this was partly enabled by the proliferation of application deployment tools. Some of the most popular ones are Jenkins, ElectricFlow, and Microsoft Visual Studio, which can be used at any stage of the development process. By automating repeatable processes and reducing deployment errors, they help development teams to release more frequently and ensure continuous delivery.

Conclusion

IT automation is justifiably a driver of business innovation strategies. In infrastructure management, it is particularly important as it allows organizations to scale storage, network, and compute resources quickly and go to market faster. Without the need to spend too much time on manual configuration and deployment, Infrastructure and Operations teams can focus on meeting business goals.

For more info about phoenixNAP’s Bare Metal Cloud and a comparison table between dedicated servers and Bare metal Cloud, follow this link.

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